Millionaire businessman Shrien Dewani never sent a text message to his shuttle driver hours before he and his wife Anni were hijacked, his lawyer has told his murder trial in South Africa.
Francois van Zyl, representing Dewani, was trying to show that driver Zola Tongo, who has been convicted of Anni’s murder, was lying about communication between himself and his client as part of an alleged plot to kill her.
Dewani, a bisexual entrepreneur from Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol, is accused of masterminding the murder while they were on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.
Tongo, 34, had given evidence that Dewani sent him a message asking what was happening with the plan after the hitmen failed to meet at the agreed hijacking spot in Gugulethu, the South African Press Association reported from the Western Cape High Court.
Mr van Zyl said they could not find any message from Dewani to Tongo between 6.26pm and 8.16pm, or 9.01pm and 9.27pm on November 13 2010.
He put it to Tongo that no message existed.
“Sir, there was some communication between me and the accused,” Tongo replied.
He added that it surprised him that there was no record of the text message. It was impossible for Dewani and him to speak in the car and the phone had been their only form of communication.
Mr van Zyl said it simply was not possible and that mobile phone experts for both the state and defence agreed there was no communication between the parties.
Tongo conceded that it was possible he may have been mistaken about the timing.
Mr van Zyl took him to task about telling police in his statement that Dewani threatened to kill him if he did not follow through on the plan. He was asked whether he really told police this in the presence of his lawyer, William da Grass, on November 26 2010.
“I never said that,” Tongo replied.
He said parts of his statement to police and evidence in court were correct. Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso seemed exasperated at the inconsistencies and asked where he was when his statement was taken.
Tongo replied he was in custody at the police building in Bellville South and that Mr Da Grass and Lt Col Mike Barkhuizen were present.
They apparently asked Tongo questions and wrote down his answers. Tongo spoke of his own free will at times.
“And when you finished making the statement, was it read to you or given to you to read?” Judge Traverso asked.
Tongo said he looked at it and signed it. Dewani shook his head a lot during proceedings and stared in disbelief when he heard some of Tongo’s answers.
Tongo’s cross-examination will continue tomorrow.